Notting Hill found its fame in some unusual places; it’s sizzling carnival that sweeps through docile streets. An ode to the strong Caribbean community that resides largely in the area.
The other place where Notting Hill found its fame was, of course, the 90’s movie hit of its namesake; the blue door, the quaint portrayal of a folksy village within a city. And, of course, because Hugh Grant was pretty dishy back then, no?
To me, Notting Hill will always be synonymous with sun-lit afternoons spent chatting over beers, of the chaos of carnival, and of the hustle of a Portobello morning.
by Jodie Taylor;
Jodie is a London-based travel writer who spent a large portion of the past ten years stumbling around in the dark at some of the capital’s hippest parties. More recently she enjoys a more refined side of London; scouting out craft markets, drinking red wine and attending fancy dog shows - albeit without a dog, for now.;
What to see and do in Notting Hill?
1. Spot pretty pastel streets all over Notting Hill
An Insta-dream, Notting Hill is home to several quiet streets teeming with pretty pastel houses that run in multicolour terraces.
A great way to get accustomed to this super-cute area is to strolling from street to street taking in the unique architecture – and maybe grab a few “for the ‘gram”, if time allows.
Be sure not to miss Ledbury Road, Farmer Street, Kensington Park Road and Hillgate Street.
2. Shop for trinkets at Portobello Road Antiques Market
Every Friday and Saturday traders line the streets of this famous lane.
Unlike many of the other London markets Portobello hasn’t bent under the pressure of cheap Chinese goods, and the antique market still holds plenty of charm and some truly unique items that you can guarantee you’ll be struggling home with on the tube later.
Thankfully, browsing is free.
3. Grab artisanal delights on Portobello mid-week
Besides the busy market days, this charming and seemingly endless street still has plenty to offer.
You can find a number of quirky boutiques retailing high fashion, to vintage wears and cupcakes to coffee shops.
“Alice’s” being a whimsical favourite amongst tourists selling all kinds of fusty little knick-knacks, that make for great souvenirs.
4. Take a literal walk down memory lane at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising
Just a few steps from Portobello lies a world of times-gone-by. Or candy-bars and-laundry -detergents-gone-by, more aptly.
The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising offers guests a chance to view relics of print all the way back from the 1800s to the current day.
Pick up vintage posters in their onsite store, or maybe stop for a quick cuppa in their quaint, leafy garden cafe.
5. Try your hand at icing school at Biscuiteers Icing Cafe
The pastel hues of this dainty store sits synonymously with Notting Hills certain style.
Originally an online biscuit delivery company, Biscuiteers has now opened two brick-and-mortar locations where you can try your hand at icing some gourmet biscuits at their icing school.
They have a cafe onsite, as well as a selection of perfectly finished treats, so if you don’t feel like doing the icing, simply do the eating instead.
6. Watch movies in bed at Electric Cinema
Cinema doesn’t get more glam than this classy restored movie house, dating back to 1910.
The lush crimson interior features leather chairs and soft, squishy beds – all complete with cashmere blankets, booze and fancy finger food.
Prices start from £20, so not much more than a regular cinema in London these days, and way more unique experience.
7. Fangirl your heart out on a Notting Hill film tour
Considered a modern-day classic, “Notting Hill” is a simple love story, peppered with the trials and tribulations of modern life, where ultimately, love conquers all.
For any die-hard fan, this walking tour is a must. See the blue door, gardens, various locations on Portobello and Rosemead Gardens, as well as a host of other intrinsic details.
Take a guided walk for around £15 (2 hours) or simply pull one of the many self-guided walk itineraries off the interwebs and show yourself around for free.
8. Eat late night ice cream at Amorino Notting Hill
One of the latest opening places in the city (and I know this personally from a frantic sugar-driven 10pm Google search) Amorino serves up its thick, gluttonous gelato until midnight every night of the week.
There’s room to sit, or grab yours to go and wander Notting Hill after dark.
9. Snap London’s most flowery pub at The Churchill Arms
Many simply stop by to check out the impressive flower display that covers the exterior. Aptly described as “flower-bedecked” by the management and rumoured to spend up to £25,000 a year on their unique floral displays.
Inside, lies a charming boozer that oozes personality and some true British pride, with plenty of Churchill memorabilia to boot (his grandparents famously drank here – or so the story goes!) Grab a crafty pint and a stool and see where the night takes you.
10. People watch at Ladbroke Grove Tube
The heart of multicultural Notting Hill, this busy tube station and streets surrounding it are a constant hub of activity. There aren’t many things you won’t witness if you sit for long enough.
Having once waited an hour for a very late friend, I can recommend the window seats at Cafe Nero across the road. A man cycling home with a full pint of beer – check, a man ordering a coffee from the street by merely shouting – check.
Boxes of kittens, rich, poor and just about everything in between. The ultimate people watching spot in Notting Hill, but shhhhh.
11. Get British rom-com feels wandering in the mews
Yet another quirky architectural delight of this area, which has been charming the heck out of tourists and locals alike are the very dainty and incredibly sweet “mews” streets.
These small streets once used as stables for the grand houses behind them became unused with the invention of the motorcar and have now been lovingly transformed into dinky little abodes that line traffic-free cobbled streets.
Recognisable from films such as “Love Actually”, “Performance”, and of course, “Notting Hill”.
Be sure to wander through Holland Park Mews, Ladgrove Walk, Horbury Mews, St Lukes Mews and Codrington Mews for cutsey feels aplenty.
— Jodie Taylor
12. Indulge your artistic side at Notting Hill’s boutique art galleries
Well known for its pristine boutique stores, Notting Hill’s boutique galleries do not disappoint. There are several to be spotted along Portobello to dip in and out of.
Street art fans will love Graffik, a gallery and workshop dedicated to urban art where you can even try your hand at some of your own at their onsite graffiti workshops.
For something altogether more biblical head to Temple Gallery, for smatterings of old-school charm and so much religion-based art that you may even want to convert by the end.
13. Grab Notting Hill’s most affordable lunch at Books for Cooks
This twee blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bookstore is a homage to the fine art of cooking. Drop in simply to leaf through glossy pages of exquisite desserts, or to sample the cosy atmosphere over a cup of coffee.
Books for Cooks little secret, however, is their extremely cheeky lunchtime special. Served at midday Tuesday to Friday, an exclusive few guests can expect to receive a unique menu every day consisting of a starter, main and cake of choice for just seven English pounds!
In a city like London, where the only place £7.00 will usually take you is the nearest Wetherspoons or chip shop, this is a real deal. Recipes are chosen on the day from one of their books and cooked onsite with fresh ingredients straight outta Portobello. Just delightful.
14. Add some colour to your life at the annual Notting Hill Carnival
This unique event has undoubtedly taken on a life of its own, turning the typically docile West London neighbourhood of Notting Hill into a fairground for three days every August bank holiday weekend.
The festival is an explosion of colour, sound – and quite a lot of delicious curry goat. While sound systems rattle a mixture of urban musical styles through the air, carnival goers shimmy around each other as street after street packs to the maximum.
Surprise performances from British artists are almost guaranteed, and if you’ve ever had a burning desire to mound a telephone pole, this might just be your only opportunity.
It can get a bit stressful at times as overcrowding is the norm. Choose the day you attend carefully to avoid this.
“Family day” - usually held on the Monday is a slightly less raucous affair. You might only queue for port-a-loos for 1 hour, instead of 2. Ah, London.
— Jodie Taylor
15. Crawl your way home via every pub in Notting Hill
Could there be a more English tradition than going on a good old-fashioned piss up? Notting Hill is home to some beautiful pubs, which can be appreciated in a variety of states of sobriety, thankfully.
Everything from your typical local boozer, to chic cocktail bars, booming gastropubs – and just about everything in between lie hidden in these streets. No need to plan a route, just pick a direction! Try The Ladbroke Arms, Sun in Splendour or GinTonica.
16. Enjoy an intimate performance at The Gate Theatre
With just 75 seats to its name, this unassuming venue perched above The Royal Albert pub is as cosy as they come.
It’s also where Notting Hill’s sophisticated clientele come to worship at the altar of theatre, at one of the most unique venues in the city.
With a continuously changing schedule of international productions, the venue promises “no two nights are ever the same” – it’s your civic duty to now test this theory, reader.
17. Pretend you belong at Notting Hill Farmers Market
Nothing says “I’m a well to do 30-something Notting Hill darling” more so than pursuing artisanal charcoal buns at this semi down-to-earth farmers market.
The kind of place where modest melons sit next to gluten-free beetroot brownies. Notting Hill Farmer’s Market is very – well – Notting Hill, let’s just say. Nestled within are some very unique products, many with a direct link to the area.
Make like a local and come with room to try the many samples on offer. Every Saturday from 9am - 1pm behind Waterstones bookstore.
— Jodie Taylor
18. Feed your inner hipster at Portobello Vegan Night Market
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am just absolutely jonesing for a buckwheat and kale smoothie, no? Vegan or not – this is a plant-based market with a difference! Hosting a smattering of delicious stalls ranging from Lebanese to Indian and even burgers.
Yes, burgers! Made from beets, probably… Along with some delightful side-stalls selling all kinds of health food type delights suited for those with specific dietary requirements.
This place also has a great little vibe, adequate seating and serves booze – because England. Taking place on selected Wednesdays close to Ladbroke Grove Tube.
19. Catch a show at the historic Tabernacle arts centre
This magnificent church-turned-arts-venue hails all the way back from the 1800s. Even without venturing inside, it’s quite the spectacle.
With a pretty awe-inspiring interior to boot, The Tabernacle is sure to “wow” with both show and surroundings.
It seems like only in Notting Hill could a local arts centre be so undeniably grand and yet host such a mixture of events; everything from feminist comedy to steel drum shows. How very, very Notting Hill.
20. Geek out on gin at GinTonica distillery & bar
To sample one of London’s increasingly expensive new wave gins – ideally served in as big a glass as possible and topped with an artful slice of grapefruit or smattering of berries – GinTonica is perfect.
This is the brick-and-mortar home of Portobello Gin, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can purchase their Ginstitute experience; learn all about the history of gin in the onsite museum and tour the distillery and botanical blending room where you will make your own blend to take home.
Unsurprisingly, the entire experience is lubricated by gin cocktails as you go. Reward yourself afterwards in the chic bar with a nice crisp, erm, gin & tonic?